Guide to being an international student

Guide to being an international student

So I’m back in Singapore for good and now that I’ve settled down and straightened things out into a routine, I figured I should try to revive my blog and keep it running again.

Since I’ve just graduated not very long ago, I thought I’d recommence with a post I feel would be relevant for those wondering about my life as an international student in Melbourne and how I got around to study abroad.

Of course, this is dedicated to students looking to study not only in Melbourne but anywhere across the border, to give you a little heads up on the things you can expect and look out for in choosing to do so. For those who are facing any doubts in choosing Melbourne as your study destination, particularly if you’re a Muslim student, give this article a read and I hope that’ll help to reassure and enlighten you a little. 🙂

Let’s begin with a little backstory. I had graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in Biotechnology in 2013 and decided that I wanted to take on an entirely different route for my degree (I made a self-discovery during my 6-month long internship as a poly student that an R&D job was not suited for me). I appealed to several universities (within Singapore and Malaysia) to switch to Arts but none responded in my favour, so that’s when studying abroad became an option.

I wanted to continue my studies without actually going back to square one (i.e. taking another diploma), so I did some research and with a little help from a counselor from IDP Singapore (recommended free service to anyone looking for advice on studying abroad), I was finally set to take an Arts course at Monash University in Melbourne, through the Diploma of Arts route at Monash College. Oh, and the reason I chose Australia is because it’s relatively closer to home and return air tickets wouldn’t be much of a pain.

So in June 2013, I  embarked on my international student journey and experienced my very first winter in Melbourne. In total, it took me roughly two and a half years to complete my whole degree.

There are several pathways one can take to get into an overseas university and the two that I am aware of (apart from the usual direct application if you are pursuing a related course) is through its college program, in my case, Monash College; and the other is doing a foundation year before undertaking a full undergraduate course.

If you already have a diploma in hand, the college route typically takes shorter. I enrolled in the Diploma of Arts (Part 2) at Monash College, which took about eight months before I advanced straight to second year in uni. So it was pretty much the shortcut I was looking for to change my course of study. I’ve also had friends from Singapore who enrolled in a similar program at Melbourne University, so you may want to check that out as well.

Take note that each university would have different entry requirements, so get in touch directly with the institution if you are unsure and they’ll be more than glad to help you out in the most efficient manner (only speaking on behalf of Australia and Melbourne, in particular).

Now, once you’re enrolled, you’ll need to be aware of the academic culture abroad. You may want to do a bit of research before flying over because orientations can only do so much. Being an individualistic society, the Australian classroom is one that encourages debate and discussion. So be prepared to speak up and don’t be afraid to say your thoughts out loud in class because that’s always welcomed. Oh, and you may drop the honorifics and address your lecturers by name only, unlike how we call our educators in Singapore. So if she says her name’s Melanie, call her that – no Miss or Mrs.

Fun fact: I actually had a lecturer named Melanie in my first year. And I called her Miss Melanie the first time I had to engage with a lecturer. 😛

Speaking of academic culture, plagiarism is taken seriously in Australia and adopting the right referencing skills is essential. I have had a friend who got penalised for an assignment because she forgot to attach inverted commas to a chunk of text she had quoted from a book. So it’s extremely important not to take this lightly.

From my experience, I think the lecturers tend to be very forgiving. There were times where I had multiple assignments due on the same day and I’d email one of my lecturers for an extension. I’d say 99 per cent of the time, they’d be happy to give you a 2-day extension (sometimes up to a week) if you have a valid reason. In my uni, there’s actually a rule applied to most of the units – the Arts at least – where you’re allowed a 2-day extension if you have two or more assignments with the same deadline.

“We don’t want you to be stressed. We are here to help you perform your best,” as a lecturer once said. Apart from that, the lecturers themselves, on the other hand, are very helpful and solicitous – well, at least mine have been.

Of course there’s more to what I’ve mentioned in this post and every school would have their own sets of rules, regulations and expectations on how lessons are run.

Most importantly, I have to bring in the fact that being in another country also means there will be times where you will probably misunderstand certain things or be misunderstood. But that’s what makes the international student experience worthwhile. You’re not only learning academically, but you’re constantly building on your social skills and picking up on the cultures of the place you’re studying in (not to mention learning about the cultures of other international friends you meet along the way).

Be it having to comprehend the slangs and accents, or grasp what is culturally accepted or unaccepted… My advice is, take in everything you must and bring back the good that you’ve learnt and it would definitely be an experience you’ll cherish and miss as soon as it’s over.


This post was originally published on my old blog,


  1. Salam. Hi,thanks for this beneficial post! 🙂 if you don’t mind, hope you could share on how you go about with the finance part when pursuing studies overseas.
    I am considering to pursue studies in Australia but the finance part is daunting me. Did you fully take a study bank loan? How did you go about / what things to consider to prepare financially? Or did you work part time in Aussie?


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